Launched IN 2009, Zone is a label built on friendship. Michel Amato, aka The Hacker, and Alexandre Reynaud became friends at the beginning of the ‘90s, sharing a love for raves and hanging out in a local record store, Ozone, in their hometown of Grenoble in France. The pair went on to run Goodlife Records with Oxia (another Ozone regular) from 1998 to 2008.
In 2009, they met Mike Lévy, aka Gesaffelstein, who was just starting out in his career, and his best friend David Rimkoh. “We love saying that Zone is the meeting of the two young and the two old,” David says with a smile. “In 2009, I was still with Mike in Paris, and met Alex and Michel backstage in a club. We talked about music, films, drank a lot of vodka and champagne, and became friends.”
“I am quite sure that the first time I met Mike, it was at the exit of a party at the Rex Club in Paris,” Michel chips in. “I was with Vitalic and Mike came to see me. He gave me his first track on a CD and I still have it in my studio.”
Out of this meeting of the minds, Zone was born. Gesaffelstein’s ‘The Operator’ EP became the first release, and the label — now over 10 years old — is still going strong. Zone still runs much like it did in the early years, with the decisions split between Michel, Alex and David. Michel takes care of all the demos and the musical direction, while David is the one behind Zone Studio, which covers the artistic direction, creation of visuals, and content production. Alex is often called the “general manager”, taking care of many of the other label tasks. All three have always participated in the final decisions about the music they release.
As well as a home for The Hacker releases, they’ve signed artists such as Kittin, Maelstrom, Cardopusher and Jensen Interceptor. The main connection between all the music on the label is that the trio are signing records that they love. “There is one thing we want: we would like people to recognize a Zone record when it’s played; we’d like to be a bit different,” says Alex. “We also like artists with personality; we don’t want to release boring techno with no changes.”
“We have no real strategy when we sign an artist, [but] it should be music which is in the artistic direction of the label,” adds David. “We love artists who put in their music all their identity, their own energy.”
The sound that defines the label also spans different eras. “Zone could be defined like a real electro label, with Dopplereffekt as a major influence, but also old-school EBM, like DAF, Front 242, Liaisons Dangereuses, and Italian disco,” explains Michel.
There have been some key releases that have paved the way for the label’s musical direction. Take The Hacker and Gesaffelstein’s ‘Crainte’ / ‘Errance’ in 2011: with the hum of hardware and dusty industrial drums, these are timeless techno tracks that would flow effortlessly with the tougher EBM resurgence records of now. Djedjotronic’s ‘Abyssal Zone’ in 2013 was a landmark release, reminiscent of classic Detroit electro from the ‘80s, while genuine Motor City royalty, Gerald Donald (Dopplereffekt/Drexciya), joined the label in 2015 with a Der Zyklus EP — another pinnacle moment. The Hacker’s LP ‘Love/ Kraft’ in 2014 marked the label’s first full- length foray — an iconic album displaying Michel’s unique blend of EBM, electro, techno, Italo disco and electro-pop.